Miss Understood: The Ungrateful

Miss Understood: The Ungrateful

Lately I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot of people around me express how bad they think their life is. Some use the term “I hate my life” loosely when things don’t go their way; if they’re late for work or for the simple fact that they have to work.

Little by little, my teapot of anger has been boiling and I’ve had enough. I would give anything to have their problems.

Arlene Grau

Arlene Grau

Healthy people’s problems do sound much more appealing than the ones I have.

Over the years I’ve learned to be grateful for everything in life, both good and bad. Perhaps it’s because of everything I’ve endured with my health and pain, but either way I feel fortunate to be where I am today. I try my best not to complain about the small stuff, because I know it’s not worth getting upset over.

Am I really going to lose my cool if my kids are rolling in dirt while wearing clean clothes? No way. I would rather watch them play and enjoy it.

Granted, there are some situations that deserve a “I hate my life” scream, but if you sit down and think about it you’ll realize that life is precious and it needs to be valued. Your problems, issues, and struggles may not be anything compared to someone else’s. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in ourselves that we don’t ask others how they are or what’s going on in their lives.

I have acquaintances who pretend like my pain doesn’t exist and they give me the same remedy of “see a doctor.” I see my doctor weekly, email him regularly and on occasions I visit twice when the pain is unbearable.

I’ve told people over and over again that I don’t expect anyone to fix me or find a cure. Sometimes I just want to vent and — instead of being the shoulder to cry on — I need one that won’t mind my tears for a change.

If you lost your job, you can collect unemployment while you’re looking for a new job. If you totaled your car, you can buy a new one and hope that your insurance covers it.

Pain sufferers can’t go out and buy new bodies, although I wish we could. Pain sufferers don’t get to choose their disease or the cause of their severe pain.

Pain sufferers take it one step at a time: enjoying the good days that bring us peace and relief, but fighting through the bad days when we feel like we just can’t go on.

Some may think this sounds bitter, but it truly isn’t. I just want people to realize that what they have is golden. If you’re not sick, you don’t have cancer or you’re not in pain, then your life is good. Be grateful for that. The fact that you woke up today is a miracle.

Everyday I wake up and thank God for giving my family and I another day of life. Even if I don’t wake up pain free, at least I’m still here, and that alone is my biggest blessing.

I just hope people realize what they have and start enjoying the little things in life. But if you feel the urge to say “I hate my life,” think about how many people are dealing with severe pain and diseases with no cure.

Then you’ll be thankful it isn’t you.

Arlene and girlscropped1Arlene Grau lives in Lakewood, California. She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, migraine, vasculitis, and Sjogren’s disease.

The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that!  It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.

There are 5 comments for this article
  1. Patti at 8:36 am

    Ditto on all the above! 🙂

  2. Jannie White at 4:07 am

    Arlene, A lot of those people don’t even really care to understand pain or know pain. its called being selfish. I had to learn how to cope with my pain falling and getting back up weaning my self off the pain medication was the hard part. Oh yes I miss working and wearing panty hose and heels just to name a few. But what is important to me is that I can still walk after being told I will be in the wheel chair for the rest of my life. The will power to change can be slow for some while others can make that dive to do it. Peopke can be miserable so they whine about everything not thinking its really not that bad for it could be worst. Being thankful just to wake up the next day trying to get it closer to right is more of a challenge for some than the health issues we have.

  3. Myron Shank, M.D., Ph.D. at 10:31 pm

    I want to stress how much I enjoy reading your posts and how much I appreciate your perspectives.

    I respect you. I have believed in people like you, and I have provided what I believe was superb, multidisciplinary, multi-modality, comprehensive care. I say this to stress that I do not wish in any way to minimize your suffering, nor the suffering of anyone else in pain.

    However, at the risk of being utterly and completely misunderstood, I would like to caution against comparing your suffering with that of anyone else. Your pain is important because it hurts you, not because it is greater than mine or than that of some busy-body neighbor. Likewise, your pain is important, not because physical pain is worse than unemployment or loss of property, but because you are important. Whether such judgments about pain and suffering are correct or in error in no wise affects the fact that making judgments about others’ suffering is exactly what you justifiably criticize them for doing to you. In the same way that you know that their “inconveniences” do not compare to with that with which you must deal, they “know” that anyone can “see” what they are experiencing, so it is “real,” but how does anyone “know” what you are “really” feeling, or whether or not it is as “bad” as you say that it is?

    Before people send their nasty comments about how heartlessly unfeeling I am toward your troubles, I hope that they will at least let me explain where I am going with this.

    Those of us who either live lives dominated by pain, or who serve those who do, need to constantly be on guard against the trap of grading other people’s problems–of judging whether or not they meet OUR standards for “suffering.” Otherwise, when we speak up (whether for ourselves, or for those whom we serve), we are discredited, not only as hypocrites, but as self-preoccupied, as seeking only our own benefits, and as irrelevant. All of us must always strive to model the kind of empathy and support that we (legitimately) demand from the broader community. Pain and suffering should be important, not because we judge them to meet a “bad enough” threshold or to be “worse than” what someone else suffers, but because the people who experience them are important. So long as we appoint ourselves as judges of pain and suffering, we lose our authority to challenge others for their self-appointed judging. The issue is not whether or not we offend by judging others’ pains and sufferings as much as they offend by judging ours (or the pains and sufferings of those whom we serve), but whether or not we are judges, and whether or not we acknowledge our slips and apologize for them.

    Let me illustrate this little sermon by preaching it at myself. While I have not had great physical suffering, I have suffered other things. Those sufferings have been important to me, not because they were worse than someone else’s sufferings, nor because the kind of things that I have suffered were more meritorious those that anyone else suffered, but purely and simply because they were MY sufferings. Now, if I truly believe these premises, as applied to myself (and I do), I have just as much reason to believe them about those with whom I come in contact (and particularly about those whom I serve medically). Whether or not I can be an agent in removing the cause, or alleviating the degree, of another’s suffering, I can–and should–be consciously empathetic and, when appropriate, provide that vital shoulder-to-cry-on that you mentioned. None of this depends upon whose suffering is “worse” or “more real” or “more important,” but upon the fact that all suffering is important, just because it is important TO somebody who IS important.

    If we lose sight of this perspective, who will share it with those who, while not our enemies, are at least our skeptics? Without anyone to share it with our skeptics, what is to keep our skeptics from progressing to become our enemies? Look around. What do you see? (I did not lightly speak about “our enemies.”) How can we resist the combined spawn of ignorance and despotism, unless we begin to convert some of our skeptics into supporters? And how can we do that without also modeling the behaviors that we (justifiably) demand of others?

    I am not addressing these comments to you out of a belief you are in need of them more than others. Instead, I perceive that, among spokesmen that I have seen for those suffering pain, you may have come closest already to what I am advocating. Perhaps you have been Miss Understood long enough. Maybe you are ready to accept the responsibilities that would come with reigning as “Miss Understanding.”

    What would that entail? I confess that my “vision” is still foggy. However, something about you inspires me believe that you will see, more clearly than I do, where this leads.

  4. Dennis Kinch at 1:36 pm

    I always thought the purpose of blogging, if that’s what this is, was to air out your opinions, to get stuff off your chest and to debate the issues. Well there’s not much debate here, Arlene, but a lot to air out. I believe you are saying what a lot of pain patients are saying, “Wanna trade lives?”

    Maybe it’s like you said, you don’t sweat the small stuff. To us, a lot of what people complain about is now “small stuff.” I get a little inside grin when I think back and remember what used to be such a bother to me is stuff I would now give anything to be able to do. Go to work, play with the kids, drive, visit friends, clean the kitchen, have a party with all the neighbors.

    I know I’m not the only one who fantasizes what life would be like if all of a sudden all the pain was gone. Maybe this would be a good write-in section: “Tell us what you’re fantasy is if you could go back to a life with no pain. How would you do things differently?” This would be an interesting survey.

    People without pain don’t have the perspective we do and thus can’t see how the normal things in life, things that bother us, things we see as negative, are sometimes the greatest treasures of life. Just take them away and then they’ll know.

    Arlene, you are an example to me, one that I use when talking to others in pain, of how to stay positive and get things done despite the pain of several diseases, but remember this, you are human, not superhuman. You must be able to yell from the mountaintops, or the typed page as the case may be, when things get to you. It’s how we release the pressure…of what we wish we could do.